Chezzi Denyer Discusses The "Alarming" Effects Of Drought
"These people are living in such a heightened patch of stress, seven days a week."
This week, Chezzi and Grant Denyer will hold a charity ball in Bathurst with the aim of getting a rural support counselor to offer mental health support to people living in the Bathurst / Orange area, especially those feeling the effects of the ongoing drought.
"It's been really full on," Chezzi told ten daily about the process of trying to organise the fundraiser in between doing grocery deliveries to farmers within a two-hour drive of the Denyer's property.
The Denyers have been using their platform to bring awareness to the dire nature of the drought, which has resulted in them being inundated with people who want to help.
"The response has been really overwhelming," said Chezzi. "I think that people are finally starting to understand what people are going through, it’s good."
For people who want to help, Chezzi said that there's plenty of ways people can help, from contacting "charities like Rural Aid or Drought Angels" or holding their own local fundraisers.
"Everything helps," she said. "Even talking about it with your kids and raising awareness. If you bring yours out to the country for a weekend, even, that also helps by putting money back into our smaller communities."
Chezzi went onto explain that it's not just the farmers who are suffering in rural areas, but small business owners as well. She explained that with many farmers unable to feed their families and animals, they're not spending as much money in the towns' businesses, so there's a run-on effect that ripples through the communities.
Still, she said that she and Grant understand the "out of sight, out of mind" mentality for a lot of Australians who aren't directly being affected by the drought.
"Working in the city and living out here gives us a really good idea of why people don’t understand what it’s like out here," she explained, adding: "I think that’s helped us, as well, with the narrative in talking to our city friends and also to the media, and saying ‘look, you just don’t understand until you’ve lived it’."
Living it, Chezzi said, often means being confronted by the devastating effect of the drought on rural communities, from the farmers and their families, to the small business owners alike.
"I’ve seen some really sad sights, I've been brought to tears more than a couple of times," she said. "Even when I’ve taken groceries out to people, they don’t want to accept it because a lot of our farmers are so used to being self-sufficient, they’ve always looked after themselves and their families and they don’t like to put their hands up for help. A lot of them don’t feel like they’re worse off, they think that there are people out there who are doing it tougher than them."
Describing the situation as "alarming", Chezzi said that many farmers are currently "living in such a heightened patch of stress" that they've maxed out credit cards, spent all their savings and taken second overdrafts on their farms to make it through.
"They wake up all through the night, worrying about their animals, they worry about themselves, they don’t know quite what to do, and it’s not just one or two cases, there’s hundreds that I’ve seen, so it is pretty alarming."
Both Chezzi and Grant feel passionately about getting these communities the mental health support they need. Having both spoken out about their own struggles with mental health, Chezzi said that the couple "understand that it can happen to anyone".
"On the outside at one point, we looked like everything was great, that we were flying high, but on the inside, we had struggles that we were dealing with," she shared. "It’s made us much more aware that you never really know what someone’s going through."
Having already sold out the Bathurst fundraiser, which Chezzi describes as "awesome", there will be no slowing down for the couple in the coming months, as they're set to continue their efforts with a fundraising ball in Brisbane this September, and in Sydney this November.
Chezzi and Grant Denyer will be on The Project talking more about the drought and the upcoming fundraising ball tonight. For information on rural charity Rural Aid, visit the website. Further details on the Denyers' Black Tie & Boots Ball can be found here.
Feature image: Getty Images